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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Brother

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Son of the same father and mother (or of either), but principally son of the same father and mother (see Genesis 42:3,4,5,13; 44:11,23,29; 2 Samuel 13:4 et seq.; Judges 9:3). The brother was expected to give his consent to his sister's marriage (Genesis 24:50-55, 34:11 et seq.). The Mosaic law declares the marriage of brother and sister, whether the latter be the daughter of the same father or of the same mother, to be incestuous (Leviticus 18:9, 20:17); whereas in the patriarchal time, and even later, it was not considered unlawful to marry the daughter of the same father (Genesis 20:12; 2 Samuel 13:13). To marry the brother's wife was incest (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21); but if a brother died childless, then the surviving brother was enjoined to marry the widow, and the first-born son of this marriage bore the dead brother's name and was his legal heir. In case of the refusal of the brother-in-law to marry her, the widow was required to summon him before the city elders and loose his shoe from off his foot, saying: "So shall be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house" (Deuteronomy 25:5-9; see ḤALIẒAH and Levirate).

The nearest relative occasionally took the place of the brother (Ruth 4:13; 5:3,4). The brother was the first, as Goel, to redeem the property sold by an impoverished man, and to avenge the murder of a brother (Leviticus 25:48; Psalms 49). It is probably due to this primitive idea of kinship that the name "brother" came to have the following significations:

  1. A kinsman. Thus, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and Jacob, the nephew of Laban, are each called "brother" (Genesis 13:8, 14:14, 39:15). Furthermore, inasmuch as the whole tribe formed in this sense one family, the name "brother" became also the designation for
  2. A tribesman (Leviticus 21:10; Deuteronomy 18:7; 2 Samuel 19:13 [12]) or one belonging to the same nation (Exodus 2:11, 4:18; Numbers 32:6; Deuteronomy 10:9, 17:20, 23:19, 24:7; Jeremiah 34:14).
  3. Kindred tribesmen, who are also called "brothers" (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4,8; 23:7; Amos 111).
  4. Friends by concluding a covenant become actual brothers (2 Samuel 1:26; Amos 1:9—"berit aḥim" [covenant of brothers]; compare "aḥavah" [brotherhood], Zechariah 11:14); although, according to Proverbs 18:24, "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
  5. The name "brother" has a higher meaning, and implies brotherly sentiment, in such verses as: "Open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor" (Deuteronomy 15:11); "Lest by exceeding the number of stripes thy brother should be vilified unto thee" (Deuteronomy 25:3, Hebr.); "Fear thy God that thy brother may live with thee" (Leviticus 25:36). Indeed, proverbial wisdom states as an experience of life among the Jewish people that "a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17); that is to say, mere sight of distress rouses brotherly compassion.
  6. Finally, the word "brother" means a fellow-man as son of the same God and Father: "At the hand of every man's brother will I require life" (Genesis 9:5). "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother" (Malachi 2:10). "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart" (Leviticus 19:17). The feeling of brotherly union which gave rise to Psalms 133, "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," prompted also the prayer recited in the Temple every morning: "May He who dwelleth in this house plant brotherliness and love, peace and friendship, amongst you" (Yer. Ber. 1:3c; compare 4:7d, a similar prayer by R. Johanan). "Years of plenty and prosperity make of the creatures brothers to each other" (Gen. R.; Midrashic explanation of , Genesis 41:2). In a far higher sense Abraham by his piety and philanthropy "made brothers" of the whole world (Gen. R.; see Brotherly Love).
  7. "Brother" is also used in the sense of "friend" as a form of politeness (Genesis 19:7), and
  8. figuratively in the sense of "companion": "He that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster" (Proverbs 18:9); "I am a brother to dragons, a companion to owls" (Job 30:29).
E. C.
K.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Brother'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/b/brother.html. 1901.

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